Charity-led Middlesbrough eatery The Fork in the Road is hoping to cook up a career for Len Thurlow after he became the restaurant’s first apprentice.
Working with Stockton Riverside College, the not-for-profit project on Linthorpe Road plans to create a number of apprenticeships through works experience opportunities.
Backed by Middlesbrough-based national charity CEO Sleepout, The Fork in the Road is run by experienced catering professionals who mentor trainees including ex-offenders, those in recovery from addiction and the long-term unemployed.
Len, 22, accepted The Fork in the Road’s offer to become their first apprentice after impressing during unpaid works experience.
Andy Preston, who is the driving force behind the restaurant as chairman of CEO Sleepout, said: “What we loved about Len is that he voluntarily carried out some unpaid works experience for us, and would happily walk the three miles from his house in Thorntree and back home afterwards just to improve his chances of a job.
“Lots of people wouldn’t do that for an unpaid shift, but Len displayed a fantastic attitude and commitment right from the start.
“He does whatever we ask of him and always does it to the best of his ability, whilst being ready to listen and learn.
“He’s a big lad and he referees in the Northern League, which many people – me included – couldn’t handle, but he’s really benefiting from the boost in confidence his first ever job is giving him.
“He’d never been in trouble with the law but has struggled to find work and needed a chance. We’re really happy to help build a future.
“To see someone as committed as Len is to finding work is impressive. He really wants that chance and I hope he continues to wow us.”
Len said: “Working here’s great and I’m really grateful to The Fork in the Road for giving me this opportunity. I’m determined to succeed and am working hard to do that.”
Len was introduced to The Fork in the Road via the local branch of national charity Street League, the UK’s leading sport for employment charity, dedicated to helping young people move into sustainable employment via the power of sport.
He will be trained in all aspects of hospitality through his year-long apprenticeship, which is being administered by Stockton Riverside College.
Andy added: “Len’s been learning a variety of front-of-house skills including greeting customers, serving food, drinks preparation and cleaning up.
“The apprenticeship is for 12 months but we’d hope he stays on with us for a number of years to gain high level skills, and who knows? Maybe he could be senior employee here in the future. The opportunity is certainly there for him.
“Through our Fork in the Road training academy at Stockton Riverside College, we’re now looking to give more long-term unemployed works experience opportunities that could lead to apprenticeships.”
The restaurant recently welcomed award-winning Louie Miller as its new head chef, who will be responsible for transforming Teessiders who’ve been long-term unemployed into a new generation of talented chefs.
Along with CEO Sleepout, The Fork in the Road and upstairs Bar Zero project is funded by Public Health England, with input from charity Recovery Connections and Middlesbrough Council’s Public Health Department.